In this 5G Fireside chat series, Hema Kadia from TeckNexus discusses with Vassilis Seferidis, CEO and Co-founder of Zeetta Networks, 5G Network Slicing & Splicing for Industry 4.0 Use Cases. In this context, we cover - what is network slicing & splicing, what are the industry 4.0 use cases where network slicing & splicing is being used, how is the network slicing done across mulitple networks (e.g. fiber, mmWave, 5G public network), what are the challenges and benefits and beyond industry 4.0 where network slicing is being leveraged.
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    Introduction to Zeetta Networks

    Hema Kadia – Welcome Vas, appreciate it if you can introduce us to Zeetta Networks. 

    Vassilis Seferidis  – Hema, thank you for inviting us and presenting the use cases for industry 4.0, obviously, what we are doing in the UK, especially in this particular deployment for 5G in industry 4.0. 

    Zeetta Networks is a spin-out from the University of Bristol, operating for the last five years. And the focus is very much on network automation, especially applied in enterprise networks. And increasingly in private 5G networks. The company developed software tools that simplify their network operations and make it easy to deploy private 5G networks to deploy a Wi-Fi network. 


    What is 5G Network Slicing?

    Hema Kadia  – We would like to understand what exactly is network slicing? 

    Vassilis Seferidis  – Network slicing must be quite familiar to a lot of your audience. It is basically the definition of an overlay network, a virtual network, a logical network that can be isolated and provides basically the actualization of a use case, a user group, or user devices that you want to isolate and deliver a special service to them.  

    The typical example in the 5G environment is when you want to isolate, you know, the low latency applications, for example, from all the other applications. And then you isolate these low latency applications in a special sort of construction, logical networks; we call network slices.   Obviously, the importance of that is that it makes the whole utilization of the network more efficient because you use the common physical infrastructure. Those are logical networks that run on top of the common infrastructure, making the use of the network even more efficient. 


    What is 5G Network Splicing?

    Hema Kadia  – Appreciate it if you can please explain what network splicing is, the term coined by Zeetta Networks.

    Vassilis Seferidis  – Network Splicing a critical use case for the 5G-encode. Network splicing is all about combining if you like or joining network slices that you have created in the previous of, in the physical infrastructure, to provide end-to-end services across different domains.  And what we do basically here that we combine if you like the bytes of connectivity to the network slices, and you will combine them to actually provide them a more consistent 5G service across end-to-end. 


    Industry 4.0 Use Cases for 5G-Encode Project

    Hema Kadia  – Zeetta Networks has led the Industry 4.o use cases for the 5G ENCODE project. What are the Industry 4.0 5G use cases that you are working on, and how are you leveraging both network slicing and network splicing for supporting these use cases. 


    In-factory and In-Transit Asset Tracking | 5G Network Slicing & Splicing

    Vassilis Seferidis  – Sure. I think the applications actually make and bring the network splicing and slicing in prominence, I guess, is the one on the left side, which is all about the in-factory and in-transit asset tracking, okay. Obviously, I guess most people understand that in-factory asset tracking.

    Here is the potential to track different assets within the factory as they move around the factory, the factory floor. You won’t actually locate them wherever they are.  In this particular case, in the deployment, we have in them in the 5G Encode project.

    The deployment is in the National Composite Center (NCC), where the assets are basically chemical. They have a minimal time life cycle. So they have to be used within an hour or a few hours. This means that you have to track them to know what exactly they are as they move around the factory floor. So they can be used within the time limits that you have, and they have to be monitored continuously throughout the sort of journey from, you know, the creation of the moment they arrived from your factory door until the machines use them within the NCC.

    Now, this is obviously to improve productivity. Because you know, and you don’t waste time to find the resources, that also obviously to you know, to know where exactly things are right, you know, like better maintenance of in-use cost.  The more important thing and for the network, slice and splice come into play is that we can allocate a dedicated network to actually track the assets as they move around the factory that’s within the factory.

    Network slicing comes to play when you want to combine, and you want to track the assets as they move through the factory. They go to another factory across the city. They have to actually start the journey from one private network, which we deploy in one location, to the public network from an operator like Telefonica, in this case, and another private network from the other factory.

    We have then actually wanted to create slices in the factory, the originator factory. You want to create a slice within the public network, Telefonica, and create a slice in the destination factory. You want to join all these slices, the independent slices, to become a seamless transition of your service from one private to public and the private network.

    The use case of in-transit asset tracking is significant for this particular network. The implementation will have been this project, but very important for logistics applications.  


    Closed-loop manufacturing in Liquid Resin Infusion (LRI) | 5G Network Slicing & Splicing

    Hema Kadia  – Can you also elaborate on the use case of closed-loop manufacturing?

    Vassilis Seferidis  – So this is very much an ultra low latency application. I’ll explain what we’re actually doing here. There is the same machine on the factory floor, which is called liquid resin infusion. This is all about applying resins, which are basically chemicals, something like glue, I guess to structures that they can be named like skeletons which are basically things like a sort of plane wings and, you know, chassis for cars and things like that. So quite a big list of constructions. 

    So the manufacturer will be preparing that, and they will apply the resin so that stuff pumps the resins from one point and then sucks from the other with a vacuum sort of machinery. The process is very time-consuming. So do take some time to actually complete. But it’s also very delicate in the sense that you have to monitor the process because they can be like stuff, errors all around the place—quite a lot of expertise. So, and, and human expertise, just because of that, they won’t automate this process. 

    If you give you an example, if you make a mistake, that can translate to maybe 50,000 pounds of cost, right, because you just get to throw away the whole plane wing. After all, that’s the prototype you’re building there, right. In that case, you want to want the process as it happens in real-time, ideally. What they have today is they have about 10 sensors monitoring the process, which usually takes a couple of hours, and they adjust basically the application of resin as it goes. The problem they have is making this process more precise, and more, you know, error-free if you like, so they can read them, you know, correct.

    You know, they can benefit the prototype, the first time around, they’re going to introduce more sensors, they’re going to go to 100 or 200 sensors.  Now the existing sensors are connected with them; you know that there’s the server’s data collection machine through these kinds of cables, you know, Ethernet cables, basically. And of course, moving to 100 to 200s units introduces an element of scalability. We don’t have enough cable structural you manage there; I don’t have enough space to manage this complexity.  And that’s why they will start thinking about the wireless; they can still use some wireless technologies existing at the moment, you know, the Wi-Fi, for example. But that doesn’t allow you to; Wi-Fi doesn’t allow you to actually control the network to the level that you want, with very low latency. Just give an example; they want to collect all this data, process them. 

    And, of course, develop the loop the feedback loop to the applications within five milliseconds. So to do that, then obviously, the wild solution is the best in terms of actual latency, but the Wi-Fi solution has to provide a similar type of speed, right? You know, and that’s where they came to the mobile stuff environment, a private mobile, sort of deployment so that they can control this parameter in the most detailed environment, right, and more precisely, and so that’s what we’re doing for them. Now, as I mentioned, just by doing this process, in, you know, improving the productivity of that and using the yield, you can actually save, you know, hundreds of thousands of dollars in the factory. 


    How is network slicing done across fiber, mmWave & Telefonica’s 5G public network, for the Industry 4.0 use cases?

    Hema Kadia  – How are you doing the network slices across 3 networks – fiber network, mmWave network & Telefonica’s 5G public network, for the industry 4.0 use cases?

    Vassilis Seferidis  – Yeah, I mean, we have a slide here when there’s a small animation that actually provides some bit more detail of what we’re doing here. So have three locations: the NCC is the National composite center headquarters, the NCC Filton is another location of the same company, which is maybe about six miles away. And then we have, of course, the Millennium square, which is another sort of deployment of the universities, the University Bristol’s deployment of the private network, once again in the center of the city. 

    Now, these three locations have each one of their own private networks. So you have like. Obviously, they run the 5g core, and the MEC, all in one location. Right. So it’s like a self-contained environment. Yes, the black box you can see there is basically Zeetta’s technology, what we call NetOS Rapide, which allows us to do the slicing of this access network of the private networks’ independence.

    So we’re able within this, each one of these environments to define types of connectivity from an access point, like in this case, it’s more cell from RAN to the MEC and the Core through the core to an access point, right. And we do that in each one of those locations.  Now, these locations are connected with three different types of networks.

    Obviously, you have the public 5g network from Telefonica, connecting the whole city and, of course, the locations of NCC headquarter center and Millennium square. You have a millimeter-wave network, which is basically connecting a 60 gigahertz network connecting the NCC headquarters with the other NCC Filton location, and you have the fiber network connecting the NCC Filton with the Millennium square. 

    Each one of those transport networks is sliceable as well. The Telefonica network is obviously sliceable by Telefonica, its own stuff slicing technology and slicing the core. NCC controls the millimeter-wave exam, so it’s sliceable, and we can have access to that, and you can slice it, and the optical network is the same thing that belongs to the university. And it is also a slice of a fiber network in the optical layer. So our multi-domain orchestrator, which you see that is a blue box, is a software layer, allowing us to create slices in each one of these individual locations and create slices on transport networks. 

    And more importantly, once you have created these slices, obviously, you know, you can actually join these slices with the process that we call network splicing. So you have just joined the different slices if you press, probably the guys can actually see the farm there. Those are the slices that you can create in the transport network. Then the yellow, sort of the circles represents the splicing of that where you can actually combine now, the slice of the different transport networks with the local area networks, for the end to end delivery of service. 

    Of course, all these slices are dependent on the use cases that you want to support. You know, if there’s a low latency application, you can create a slice in the local, sort of in the private network, which is a low latency, you know, three, five milliseconds, you request a similar slice from the Telefonica network. Obviously, you know, delivered in the way of API’s and hooks there and provide to them, and then you have another set of slices from the other private network in the Millennium square to complete the end to end to slice with these special KPIs. 


    How are you managing orchestrator interoperability across multi-domain networks?

    Hema Kadia  – The orchestrator will need to interface with different orchestrators or SDN controllers or legacy ecosystem applications in different enterprises | telecom operator ecosystem. How are you managing this complexity in the context of network slicing? 

    Vassilis Seferidis  – Our technologies very much software-defined networking technology, so that is vendor agnostic and technology agnostic that means that we can actually slice any network you know from the transport network, the fiber network we discussed earlier, and millimeter-wave to plan and sort of any kind off-network and obviously software interface with any of the vendors. So it’s basically a software-defined network technology, which should be, you know, supporting disaggregate solutions and supporting the different services. 


    What are the key technologies & products leveraged for 5G network slicing?

    Hema Kadia  – What are the key technologies and the products that you’re leveraging both Zeetta’s network and some partners involved in this 5g ENCODE project?

    Vassilis Seferidis  – Yes, I mean, as mentioned earlier, the networks are a big box, you know, we are presenting each of those locations with a black square. It is basically a deployable version of our NetOS SDN controller.

    And our SDN controller is basically an Open Daylight deployment. And a special version of the open daylight controller, as the sdn controller, has been augmented with a lot of orchestration tools and extensions, which support different types of devices. That allows us to actually, as I mentioned earlier, slice the network, the private network in one location in one domain, and allow you actually to define types of connectivity VLANs, you know, the level of slices that you want to create in a single domain and software environment. 

    The NetOS Rapide is the deployable version of that; it is basically a box that will actually bring it to a factory and provide you with this capability. It’s a pop-up network if you like that actually provide you this kind of control and slicing capability.  Our network splicer or NetSplicer is all about splicing, the different domains.

    So you create basically the individual network slices in each domain, and the network splicer is actually combining, or you can call it basically multi-domain orchestrator for a better word, which basically combines the slices and makes it, you know, the control and orchestration of your network end to end.

    For us, the orchestration of the network is all about managing slices. So everything in the network is a slice, and the service you provide is a slice. You are managing different slices with Orchestrator in a single domain with NetOS or with the NetSplicer, which is like the multidomain orchestrator.


    Beyond Industry 4.0, what other use cases you are supporting via 5G Network Slicing & Splicing?

    Hema Kadia  – What are the other use cases where you’re leveraging network slicing and splicing? 

    Vassilis Seferidis  – Sure. We have been involved in some other interesting projects, applying the same basic technology in areas like logistics, for example, entertainment.  Logistics is very similar to what I described earlier about asset tracking; you know, you have the asset. You want to target different private and public networks. It is a typical use case for logistics are the firm environment.

    And you have, of course, the other very interesting stuff, deployment for us is the smart venues, places you want actually to automate a lot of functions, you want to specify new services and deploy different services, but also have the network automation to simplify this kind of deployment. And what we call mode management, moving from one configuration of the network in your venue to another one with the press of a button.

    It is beneficial for venues for example that they have their multi-purpose for example, I’ll give you an example of that we have implemented in a stadium, the stadium can be used as obviously a sports venue, but they’re increasingly used as hospitality, you know, for wedding receptions and, you know, hospital, concerts, you know, conferences, you know, say industry events in their lives.

    Moving from one style of configuration, one mode of configuration to another with the press of a button, reconfiguring the whole network in one go, is what we can offer with that right and didn’t even know that through network slicing and splicing in the enterprise environment. So that we see as another application for the 5g as we move to the 5g and move away, to do to apply the same technology in a kind of, you know, hospitality, if you like, or multi-venue, smart venues, smart buildings, smart cities to the environment. 


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